MYANMAR Info May 2012

Discussion in 'Myanmar - Motorcycle Trip Report Forums' started by Franz, Jun 6, 2012.

  1. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Having to go to Myanmar for business the last week, I could get an overall impression on what has changed since my last visit in 2001. I’m trying here to give some information useful to every member but without any guarantees as the laws/regulations change now every day. Nor is this information complete but this should be added by other members in time so we can build up a country based section for our western neighbours too.

    Capital: Nay Pyi Taw (speak: Naepeedaw)

    Population: ~ 60 Mio, various ethnic groups

    Language: Burmese, various ethnic languages, English well spoken especially by older people

    Area: 676,578 km2

    Currency: Kyat (speak: jet) currently 1 USD ~ 835 Kyat, Credit Cards are hardly accepted, only by big international Hotels in Yangon, USD in cash is your payment method, no ATM’s !! Luckily they have already abolished the stupid FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificates) that every visitor except business people had to change upon arrival for 200.- $.

    Mobile/Internet: there’s only the state owned network for mobiles and AIS users (but not 1-2-call) can get access in the big towns, coverage is very limited, don’t know the IR costs yet as my bill hasn’t been received yet. Internet in most of the upper-class Hotels, slow and it is advised to use VPN access as you never know who’s watching……..

    Timezone: Thailand – 30 minutes

    Current: 220V/50 Hz, mainly using the big 3-pin plugs used in Singapore

    New National Flag: (from top to bottom) yellow-green-red with a white star in the center

    Visa: it was just published that citizens of 25 countries can now do Visa on Arrival in Yangon, mainly 9 ASEAN members, China, Japan, India, Korea, Taiwan, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, France, Spain, NZ & OS, UK & US. For all other countries, there’s still the necessity to visit the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok on 132 North Sathorn Road with one filled in form, 2 fotos, passport, cash & patience.

    Flights: with TG or MAI or AirAsia from Bangkok to Yangon (daily), with AirBagan from Chiang Mai to Yangon (Sun & Thu), from Singapore with Silkair and from KL with AirAsia. The new Airport (Chinese built) is no different from any other small international airport and has 4 docking gates, the old airport is used for domestic flights only.

    Traffic: they changed years ago from driving on the left to the right hand side like in central Europe and the US. Problem is that car imports are very highly taxed and only feasible for used cars from Japan with an age of more than 10 years. So most of the cars have the steering on the right which of course is a p.i.t.a. once trying to take over…..They also still have the system of the need to buy a license to buy a car like in Singapore. My agent just imported 3 Landcruisers with more than 10 years on the road and they cost him per piece more than USD 200,000.-. There’s still no dealership & proper service for new car sales of the Japanese for example, all still done by some Wheeler-Dealers. Just last week they changed the import taxes to lower levels and also the law that allows now every citizen above 18 years of age to import 1 used car.

    Motorbikes: the use of motorbikes within central Yangon was forbidden and still is as they think it will avoid congestion in the town but I think they just achieved the opposite. All other towns and areas are swarming with them. You hardly see any western make or big bike, I managed to see one battered XR250, 2x WR250 and some DT125 & 200’s. Scooters are ALL chinese crap, mainly Dream copies with belching oil from their exhausts.
    Here’s some fotos of some of them:
    Quibo S110R
    Zongshen Companion 115
    most commonly used JLM 110

    Roads: this is where the fun starts for motocrossers. Other than the newly built Yangon-Naypyitaw-Mandalay Superhighway which is a concrete paved highway with 2x2 lanes and divider, all other roads are in a very poor state, sometimes only one lane paved with manually applied asphalt (uneven, bumpy) and serious potholes all over. In the countryside there’s many unpaved dirtroads which turn into mudtracks during rain. On these roads there are no bridges, meaning you go through the river bed and if it’s raining, be sure your car has enough petrol and some drinking water for a longer wait. You will encounter many locals begging for money at these river crossings and loads of ‘tollway-stations/shacks’ where they collect their fees for the company who built the road; costs are not bad for us but for the locals ouchhhh some Kyat 1-2,000.- per stretch.
    Some fotos of roads I have been on:
    Mandalay to Pagan
    Pagan to Naypyitaw:
    Naypyitaw road in front of new parliament
    Superhighway Yangon-Naypyitaw-Mandalay
    Naypyitaw new Parliament:

    Local Transport: train – well do you really have toooooo much time ?? I think they get an average speed of 20 km/hr. buses – have you seen them ?? Are you tired of life ?? That leaves us with airplanes, there’s AriBagan and some others and they mainly use modern ATR 72’s. Flights are not full and planes seemed to be maintained in a safe condition. Or you can hire any taxi in big towns but make sure the aircon works, the windows can be closed and have a look at the tyres before you agree on a fare if you are going on a longer trip. Haven’t seen any motorbikes for rent yet, not even in touristy Pagan, only bicycles there……….

    F & B: food is plenty and good, in bigger towns also all kinds of foreign foods and luckily not yet the junk from over the Pacific. Myanmar Beer, Mandalay Beer and Dagon were the brands to quench my evening thirst. As I am too long in Asia I cannot comment on the safety or cleanliness of all foods and drinks as my stomach accepts all kinds of bacteria without troubles already, nonetheless be careful with tap water. Drinking water in bottles though is safe. Delicious fruitjuices available everywhere, depending on what is on the tress at the time you are there. Try anything Mango, contrary to Thais the Myanmar people like them ripe and not sour like in LOS so your toenails curl up.
    MMMMMM yummie, we bought several Kilos:


    Hotels: there’s one town where it is advised to do an early booking as right now there’s so many people going there that rooms are scarce: Yangon. Do the booking via some big travel agency or Agoda as most of Myanmar Hotels don’t accept Credit cards but only cash and there mainly US Dollars if you pay there on the spot. Don’t walk in as then the rates double.
    In Yangon I used the SEDONA Hotel as close to my agent, special price around $145.- per night. In Pagan I used the MYANMAR TREASURE Resort Bagan, again agent price $70.- and in Naypyitaw the GOLDEN GUEST Hotel at $40.-. All were ok, I loved the one in Pagan as in local “Pagoda Style” with nice pool and restaurant.

    Problems: take a good torch with you everywhere you go as Myanmar’s electrical demand now exceeds nearly double the availability of power supply, so be aware that some nights in some places you might be in the total dark. On the “Superhighway” from Mandalay to Naypyitaw I saw not even one lightbulb lit during a stretch of 180 kms !! Only some small bulbs powered by solar cells on bridges & overpasses. Of course the synthetic new capital was lit up like a torch, reminds me of Ceaucescu’s Bukarest in the 80’s………..

    Travelling: There’s no more road-checks to wherever we went, there still will be some areas off-limits for foreigners but that might be only for our safety. Contrary as to what I saw in 2001, now travelling is quite easy as far as check-points are concerned. You hardly see any army people on the roads anymore. Just make sure you fill up petrol in any bigger town/village and stock some food and beverages in your vehicle.

    Shopping: local shops I went into are somewhat empty, never went into a shopping mall, no time & need for that, for me it was only the Duty Free at the Airport and here only Ciggies, Whiskey and a very limited amount of Perfume………btw, ciggies are hard to come by, advice for smokers: use the local RED RUBY which come close to Mild-Seven in taste……and they are cheap, K 1,000.- per pack………

    Must See: Pagan or also called Bagan, airport for it is Nyaung-U (just mention it to avoid you asking for a timetable to Pagan). It’s another marvel such as the Chinese Wall or Angkor Wat. A real MUST for anyone travelling to Myanmar. Try to go to the high Pagoda before sunset……….you’ll not be sorry !!!!
    We arrived just in time from a factory to still being able to do one hour sightseeing too:


    As this was a business trip I did not have the time to do something “motorbike-special” or “private-only” so you might miss the usual info we add but this can be done on a later trip where I sure as h… will add a weekend in Pagan.
    Also did I forget my camera, so most of the fotos were taken by my mobile and often through the car windows, but at least we can get some impressions.
    And YESSSS this is a very poor and under-developed country, but the smiles on the peoples faces give you hope that they will push forward and get something better soon, I wish it to them from my heart !!
    Cheers, Franz
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  3. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Thanks for this report & for the breadth of area covered. Very informative, highly useful & imparting so much knowledge that is presently so difficult to find.
    I like to get around (rather than be 'first there') so disappointed the infrastructure is not yet there.
    Look forward to your updates as you return from time to time.
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Wonderful stuff Franz & a new destination for all of us maybe?
  5. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Yes David, new destination soon, so why not start already a country section for Myanmar, just don't forget to use the new flag for the banner will ya preesee.....?

    Rod, thanks, yes information on Myanmar is hard to find so I had to get it all myself. Just take the official embassy website for Bangkok, hardly any information available other than address and phonenumbers; but don't try to call as nobody will pick up, my Supervisor called there for 2 days and never anybody did pick up.
    As I was in India for a long time 24 years ago I can compare it with today's Myanmar only that by then the infrastructure in India was already way better than in Myanmar today !! It's an adventure once you venture out of the big cities and do not use airtransport that's for sure but that doesn't keep me from going back also on a private trip. Sometimes we need to get reminded on how easy and perfect Thailand is, to better appreciate where we are residing right now!! Nepal is another place to do that too.................cheers, Franz
  6. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer


    Thank you very much for posting this. Most informative. A must-go destination for the future.

  7. Rhodie

    Rhodie Ol'Timer

    Again a most informative post, many thanks.
    Just a question on cash when we went a few years ago.
    Then there was a need to take mint/very v. clean dollar notes.
    But we found we could change thai baht at Scotts Market in Rangoon.
    Did you find that thai baht was now more easily changeable?
    Also, what about buying a local sim card - are they available now?
    Before locals were paying $1500 for the privilege!
    Have some friends going there in the next few weeks so your post is very timely.
  8. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    John, that thing about the mint $ notes is still valid, anyone receiving payment from you will very strictly control the notes and reject any scratched or torn ones. Valid point to remember once you do the change. Agent also told me that the difference between market and official is now very small so I never bothered.
    As for THB/MMK I do not know as I had only US$ with me, some places will only show prices in that currency. In doing business, the Euro of course is also a payment method and preferred now by the big factories I was told but do not know about paying Hotels. Reject from your side also torn Kyat notes as nobody wants to take them.
    I do not know about SIM cards but haven't ssen any advertisement at the International Airport, if all fails, give them AIS ones but NOT 1-2-Call. Anyway, just outside of big cities there's no reception as I saw with my agent's staff, same for local mobiles..............
    Rgds, Franz
  9. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Forgot to mention, used to call Myanmar from time to time, international caller index is +95 and then complete MM number without the zero. Rgds, FR
  10. Thanks Franz for this report.
    So, is it therefore Ok to train (?) to Mandalay and then hire the china-made motorcycle to ride around?
    Barring any unforeseen whatever, I am slated for a business July visit 2-3days...with plans to extend another 3-5days, and I dont wanna be stuck in Yangon...
    Thanks in advance for any advice.

  11. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Joko, I think for a trainride up to Mandalay you'll need plenty of time, I would fly up there on AirBagan which leaves somewhere around 07:00 in the morning and makes a stopover in Pagan (Nyaunt U) but just for 10 minutes, flight time is around 1 hr from Yangon to Pagan and another half hour further on to Mandalay, I paid USD 108.- for the oneway trip. Can't comment on rental bikes in Mandalay as I've not asked around but maybe you could get lucky and get one even from private.....
    On another note, the carriages and engines of Myanmar State Railways looked not confidence inspiring, think they still use the ones the Brits left there so very, very old 555555........
    As for a Hotel in the Center in Yangon, I used to stay in the NIKKO in 2001, now that has been sold and refurbished it's now called Chatrium and is owned by Chatri, me thinks is the topguy at Bangkok Bank.......has a nice view over the lake and some rooms can also see the Shwegadon Pagoda.
    cheers, Franz
  12. hsracer 369

    hsracer 369 Member

    Hey All

    Good info Franz, all well put together.

    RE, the train YAN-MDY, it is about 18 hours, as much as 21 with delays. I have some pics that are timeless...You should go to the station in YNG about 2-3 days before you wanna go to MDY. You go to the window marked "Upper Class" as opposed to "Ordinary Class" You must pay the fare in USD, all clean, new bills. $12.

    Inside "Upper Class" are the most retro, cool, red crushed velvet covered, barber style bohemouth, reclining chairs made by Brit Rail in the late 40s...and they haven't been recovered, rechromed, or even washed since the Brits left. But if you get one with the springs still not exposed through the seat cushion bottom, they're awesome. 360 degrees of swivel esp nice if the swivel doesn't lock down once the train starts swaying once it reaches say 25KPH. The first 10 hours are pretty much a slam dunk experience of one you will never forget, from the hawkers, to the toilets, to the fellow traqvellers, to the train surfers. The 2nd 10 hours, you may think you are dead and in Dante's Inferno.

    I was so moved by my first trip on that rail I compiled a whole video of photos just from the folks on the "rails"....but then again, I love trains. Check it out, it's set to Gimme Shelter....

    Anyway, I choose Ordinary the first was a wooden bench. Splurge and do Upper Class and hobb knobb with the bourgeoisie.

    In Mandalay, go to the Nylon Ice Cream Shop,EVERYONE knows it, and next door, there is a guy renting Chinese Scooters. Real dodgy, but it's a new bizness for these guys and don't expect shit for service. Once the money changes hands, you are gonna be responsible even in the piston breaks the ring while it's idling in front of the shop under your eyes. It's just the way they see it, your karma. Whatever. oh, they do have a small sign in Ingrish, but if you can't find, ask the kids at Nylon. Do not try to drive out past a certain point in Mandalay on ST78, you will get stopped, turned back, maybe extorted a bit....just cruise in MDY.

    Sorry to hijack about the train....Nice thread, Franz!!
  13. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Hsracer, no problem, any info about MM is welcome here, had a hearty laugh when reading your post, just seeing the carriages and the engine made me think similar, that nothing has changed since the British left........cheers, Franz
  14. a-tecracing

    a-tecracing Ol'Timer

    With an ever changing situation, it's good to have updated eyewittness reports, watching the situation on Kanchanaburi boarder, appart from wondering accross the boarder. It will be great when day crossing for Farangs arrives. Probably Three Pagoda pass will come first although Pilok is a nce trip anyway. winter season oct-april 2013. we will see what if any changes have or are likely
  15. Maybe you can drive across in 2016 from Mae Sot."s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CFcQFjAA&url=

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